AS a survey published by the Department for Infrastructure outlines the benefits of the concessionary fares scheme in increasing mobility for the over-60s, there are no plans yet to roll it out to Belfast’s Black taxis despite their decades of community service.
The survey, carried out by the Department for Infrastructure, was developed in partnership with a range of voluntary organisations including the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee and AgeNI.
Some of the key findings from the survey show that 88 per cent of respondents agreed that having a SmartPass had increased their use of public transport; 86 per cent felt the SmartPass had enabled them to be more active; and 85 per cent were able to make more social visits.
Announcing the results of the survey, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “I recognise the value that our communities attach to concessionary travel and the crucial role that a SmartPass can play in opening up access to public transport for older people and those with a disability.
“As we continue our recovery from the pandemic and see more people returning to public transport I am pleased to publish the results of the survey carried out by my Department into this important scheme.
“The survey results fully support my view that the Scheme connects people and opportunities through our transport infrastructure, helps to protect our environment through more sustainable travel and promotes long, healthy and active lives. It also highlights the importance of the Scheme to those who are most vulnerable in our communities and its critical role in building a socially just society.
“I would like to thank those organisations who assisted in the development and promotion of the survey and to those members of the public who took the time to complete it.”
We asked the Department for Infrastructure if they have any plans to extend the concessionary fares scheme to Black taxis. A spokesperson for the Department said: “Minister Mallon has made it clear that she wants to continue to help the taxi industry during these difficult times.
“Discussions are ongoing between the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and Belfast Taxis CIC in relation to the latter claiming reimbursement for discounted fares through the NI Concessionary Fares Scheme.
“Participation in the scheme, however, is subject to DfI securing sufficient additional budget to cover existing financial pressures as well as the additional cost that expansion of the scheme would incur in future years.”